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ellie stanton

she/her | Instagram | Site | LinkedIn

Hey Ellie, how’s things?

Not bad!

Tell us about yourself

I’m a graphic designer and illustrator currently at BBC creative.

Always wanted to be a designer?

No, I had a creative streak when I was a child which ebbed away at school as there wasn’t an emphasis on the arts and I was steered into focusing on more academic subjects. I came quite late to the design world, I worked at a live arts organisation and started doing some of their design work and then went back to do an MA in graphic design and finally got a job at the BBC.

You wrote a post about finding work. What was your process like?

Truly awful! Constant applications and getting nowhere. Getting through an interview and being asked to do a week's worth of work as a design test for part of the next round. I applied to a junior role at an agency who then got in touch asking if I would be interested in applying for an internship with them for it to turn out that other applicants would also be interning in an apprentice style battle for the junior role. It began to feel very hopeless. Employees were asking juniors to have extensive knowledge and skills for an extremely low wage. It seemed like there was no room for potential or growth and juniors were expected to come fully cooked.

Do you have any advice for anyone going through the same situation as you did?

Try your best not to internalise the constant rejection as personal failure. I got into a headspace of thinking everything I did had to feed into me getting a job for example adding to my portfolio or learning design software and therefore design lost a bit of its fun. Keep remembering that your worth is not connected to your productivity, your employment status or your ability as a designer. That last one is still something I need to continually remind myself. Spend time doing things that you can separate from work and that you genuinely enjoy, I got very into knitting. There is a great book about being ‘“unproductive” called How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves!!

You managed to get a job at BBC Creative, you enjoying your time there so far?

Yes! I feel so lucky to have found a position here and have learned so much already. I get a good mix of interesting projects to work on and work with great people.

Are there any projects you’ve worked on that stand out?

I recently worked on the next Proms identity which was pretty exciting and learned a lot in terms of demystifying what branding design means. Ru Pauls Drag Race UK Season 3 was one of my first projects which felt pretty big. I’ve also worked on the illustrations for a few animated adverts which is one of my favourite jobs. I’m really interested in opening title sequences so would love to work on one of those in the future.

BBC Proms Identity Co-Created with Tom Heath

Talk to us about your illustration style. Is it an important part of your work?

I’ve had a sabbatical from personal illustrations for a while now and currently feel like I don’t have an illustration style. At the moment I feel like a focus on finding a style can feel like an unnecessary pressure and a little restrictive. I’m really still developing as an illustrator and am trying to regain a sense of drawing for fun with no expectations which has been elusive for a little while now but it’ll come back!

Looking back at my work, I feel like it has a slightly garish, unsettling quality to it which hopefully helps as a device in the tone I’m wanting to set and story I'm telling. Creepy but in a fun way!

Talk to us about your interest in storytelling

It makes the most sense to me and what I would always gravitate towards in making my own work. When I think about the work that is the most meaningful for me it is usually work that has a strong narrative element to it, for instance design fiction, graphic novels, animation, film and writing. During my MA, writing was an important part of my process to develop ideas. Our lives often leave very little space for imagination and a practice of writing feels like a very immediate way to flex that muscle. I recently did a short creative writing course and am always struck by how writing can lead to unexpected results and ideas I wouldn’t have reached otherwise.

You mentioned about finding humour within the systems we live in, what do you mean by this?

Good question! In place of having the attention span to read an actual book I follow an Ursula K. le Guin bot on twitter and it regularly tweets that “we live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the Divine rights of kings.” Mark Fisher’s capitalist realism outlines how it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism and the margins for resistance feel like they are shrinking as time goes on. I think some of my work is painting the behaviours we take on as a result of the systems we live under in a humorous and absurd light in the hope that it might create some space to imagine something different.

You created an illustration called ‘Gatekeepers United’. Do you believe there is gatekeeping in our industry?

Yes absolutely, I’ve seen it most keenly in the hiring process of juniors plus starting salaries are very low which means it's often people with parents who can support them who are able to take those roles more comfortably.

If so what improvements can be made?

I would have really benefited from knowledge about jobs in creative industries when I was at school. I think the only jobs I knew existed were a teacher or solicitor. For agencies and employees I think it’s an awareness that when you are hiring juniors you are in fact hiring juniors not cheap seniors. Paying a living wage!

Who are your standout creatives?

One of my MA tutor’s Max Colson makes really great work looking at London and the built environment. I'm a big follower of Tobias Revell’s blog posts. He as a lot of great insights about tech and AI. I first discovered his work through some writing in Dirty Furniture magazine in a piece about necromancy and technology and have never looked back!

For my final question, whats next?

Answering these questions has actually been a great moment to reflect on the threads that have tied my work together and what I find meaningful. It’s interesting to take a look at what I’ve said my work hopes to do and take a step back to see if my work is actually doing that. My hope is that with my future work that gap continues to narrow. I’m interested in making work about access to nature and our relationships to the neighbourhoods we live in plus just creating a regular habit of writing and drawing for fun with no expectations!


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